I am going about 50km/h in a second-class carriage.
My compartment looks like the ones on early morning trains between Rybnik and Katowice in the 90s.
Cold, soulless, leather seats with stainless steel finishing, neon lamps flickering at night, and two non-functioning fans, without which it is hard to imagine travelling or living here.
The first rays of sunshine paint my picture, revealing new colours and details of my journey, which were hidden in the darkness. I feel like on a film set – everything around me seems directed.
In the corridor, there are two actors – a monk smoking cigarettes and a man with a great head of hair, wearing a jeans outfit and sneakers.
There are also a few supernumeraries. Their heads are not moving; they are staring straight ahead. My companions are still sleeping, because it was a short night.
Yesterday, we got to Surat Thani on a night train, with the ever-present sounds of coughing typical of strep throat.
On night trains between Bangkok and the rest of the world, the conductor has more duties. In five moves, he turns your seat into a bed.
He does that seat after seat, carriage after carriage.
The sunshine wakes me up – this time, the colour balance is greeny owing to an exotic vegetation and long leaves, which blend frosty morning light into something warm and exotic.
After concrete Bangkok, it is a wonderful sensation, which brings new kinds of emotions, even gravity of the situation. I encounter real, often unspoilt nature.
Surat Thani welcomes us with a different world. Film-like vehicles, a Native American with a face of a man one wants to read only based on his wrinkles. He is pulling his motorcycle in sandals, fresh air, freedom.
We find a hotel with an epic name ‘Queen’, but it has nothing to do with the princess we think about; it takes us to the atmosphere of Desperados and the look of the bartender who sells piss instead of beer. A corridor, a hall, flickering neon lamps, and the sound of door lock that brings the sense of safety, which we – tourists from Europe – needed so much.
A short night, we get up after 3 a.m. to catch the train I am on while writing to you.
The train is going somehow slower; at every station, there are plenty of salesmen, chickens, fruit, drinks worn on the head, in baskets, anywhere, to get as much as possible.
It is beautiful that they are more effective than low-cost airlines, which disturb our peace during a 2-hour flight, turning it into an aggressive, never-ending, loud and tacky market with special prices and discounts every season of the year.
Here, people buy these chickens, fruit, and other stuff. It makes sense.
We go to Khao Sok – you can google it, looking for information, but it is better to catch a French guy with two girls and get a boat together to get to that paradise at the end of the world.
We will spend the forthcoming nights in floating houses equipped with used mattresses. In silence, because other tourists preferred to buy motorboat rides with free beer.
A metaphysical experience, which will be rooted forever in each of us, happens in the morning when we wake up to the sounds of nature and the surrounding jungle. Monkeys begin their concert, but the real king of the day is the sun. The lighting technician of the scene is excellent – it lays the light gently on the endless, still surface of water, then it gently raises its lamps, increasing the contrast, and shows the forest – the forest which is humming and looking with its own eyes.
We do not hesitate and hop into kayaks, rushing ahead, getting closer to the land to see those animals, but the closer we get, the quieter the sounds become – someone must be on the alert and warn the other musicians to hide their instruments, because an intruder is coming; the spectator got too close to the stage. We stay there for a while and look in the eyes of majestic and powerful nature.
A floating bar serves us fresh fish with vegetables and fruit. There is nothing here – only the striking peace and quiet. It is a very unnatural place for us, like a rehab, after a long time one may have convulsions, there is no Internet, electricity is available only 2–3 hours a day, it goes out about 22 and that is it. I am coming back there.
I took that journey four years ago when I did not write or take any notes. I am writing from memory.
Ryszard Kapuściński did not take any notes either. He believed he remembered the most important things, and the rest is irrelevant, so I am telling you what I remember.